Comelec urged to allow media, poll watchdogs to observe voters registration PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 30 January 2012 13:00

Peace activists want the Commission on Elections to allow volunteer media groups, poll watchdogs, and non-government organizations to observe the March 5 to Oct. 31 registration of voters in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Politicians in the ARMM are known for their practice of hauling prospective underage constituents to registration sites and also for “importing” people from outside of their respective towns to be listed as a way of padding voters’ lists in their favor.

Oblate priest Eliseo Mercado, Jr., director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, said the newly-installed officer in charge of ARMM, Mujiv Hataman, should also mobilize regional offices under his ministerial control to help ensure that only qualified voters in the autonomous region can register.

“One major reform needed in the political set-up of the autonomous region is the cleansing of the area’s lists of voters of non-qualified voters,” said Mercado, a convenor of more than 50 different peace advocacy organizations helping push forward the Southern Mindanao peace process.

Regional election officials had announced before the 2008 ARMM elections that there were more than 200,000 “multiple registrants” in the autonomous region, a big bulk of them listed in politically-hostile towns in Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao.

Officials of the local chapter of the National Union of Journalists and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas have expressed willingness to help disseminate information on the Comelec’s restrictions on listing of voters who are either underage or non-residents of towns where they are to register.

The commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, Major Gen. Rey Ardo, said the 6th ID is just as ready to prevent unscrupulous politicians from having “hired” groups to be listed as voters in their respective bailiwicks in Maguindanao.

“We will just wait for a directive from the Comelec and our higher headquarters,” Ardo told The Star.

Many politicians in Maguindanao spend big amounts of money in padding the lists of voters in areas they control politically.

“The voters’ identification cards of the underage voters and multiple registrants are kept by these politicians and released only during the polling day to enable their owners to vote for favored candidate for a fee. After the voters cast their votes, the ID cards are returned to the politicians they serve,” said Ustadz Esmael Ibrahim, a member of the local Islamic Darul Iftah, or House of Opinions.

“Cheating in elections is haram (forbidden) in Islam.” Ibrahim said.

In Resolution 9338, the Comelec said qualified ARMM voters can register and validate their registration records from March 5 to Oct. 31.

The resumption of the voters’ registration is in preparation for the synchronization of the ARMM election with the 2013 midterm election, as provided under Republic Act 10153.

Voters’ registration in non-ARMM areas started on May 3 last year and last Nov. 2 for the overseas absentee voting. Both will end on Oct. 31. — Felix Ostrea